Saturday, 22 July 2017

Welcome: Newly Qualified Teachers

Newly Qualified Teachers in Reading
I was delighted to welcome a group of newly qualified teachers to the Council Chamber in Reading to celebrate the completion of the first year of their teaching careers.

Representing schools from all parts of the town, primary and secondary, their enthusiasm, excitement and pride shone through.

Though some will now pursue their careers elsewhere, many of those I met were intent on teaching the children of Reading for many years to come. Congratulations and good luck!

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Don't Let The Government Behead Democracy

"The government has triggered Article 50 - which means we are leaving the EU. But the battle for our democracy and our rights has only just begun."

Meeting: Wednesday 6th September 2017, 7.30pm at RISC, London Street, Reading 

briefing published by Another Europe is Possible and Global Justice Now argues that the powers contained in the "Great Repeal Bill" present a fundamental threat to a number of areas, including:
  1. Workers’ rights in particular the rights of agency workers, protections for working time, and enforcement of the prohibition on discrimination.
  2. The environment in particular ensuring that environmental protections are effective, and polluters bear the cost of pollution, water safety, and air quality.
  3. Human rights particularly prohibitions on the torture trade and protections for privacy.
  4. Consumer protection particularly the regulation of dangerous chemicals and food safety.
  5. Financial regulation particularly in the event that Brexit negotiators are unable to secure the concessions required to maintain the City of London’s access to the EU.
Campaigners will seek to amend the Great Repeal Bill extensively to ensure that rights are preserved. This will include a sunset clause for the delegated powers in the Bill, and a guarantee that that the powers the Bill provides will not be used to reduce substantive individual rights and protections – forming the basis of a Judicial Review if this were to happen.

Labour MP Clive Lewis said: “The Tories are using the Brexit process as a means of undermining democracy and our rights. I and other MPs will use every opportunity to amend the Great Repeal Bill to ensure rights are preserved and the government does not award itself the powers of a renaissance monarch.”

Dr Sam Fowles, author of the report, said: “The Great Repeal Bill creates the opportunity for the government to remove rights and protections to which it objects without going through the usual mechanisms of democratic accountability. This report highlights those policy areas to which the Conservative party has already shown hostility, including protections for the environment, workers, and individual privacy. These rights are at risk unless the bill is amended.”

Meeting: Wednesday 6th September 2017, 7.30pm at RISC, London Street, Reading

Friday, 14 July 2017

Berkshire West Accountable Care System - The Shape Of Things To Come

Let's face it, if you ask most people what an STP is, a not uncommon response is a shrug of the shoulders or a glazing of the eyes and are just as likely to say "sticky toffee pudding" as "sustainability and transformation plans".   
Yet these plans, drawn up in secret last year, could have a profound impact on the delivery of health and social care services across the country.
However, having skipped any real public consultation on the STP for the Reading area (which was included with Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, West Berkshire and Wokingham) local health bosses have decided to race ahead with another bowl of alphabet soup, called an ACS.
So locally our ACS, or Accountable Care System (based on the Berkshire West 10 partnership of health organisations and local councils), has been launched as part of an initial group of eight across England. The claim is that with better joined up working between GPs, hospitals, councils and other care providers, a better service will be delivered on the front-line to the patient - and a cheaper service to the tax-payer.
All good then.
But if its that good, why the lack of public engagement? Or is it that they think they know best and we should just leave it to them?
And without getting to immersed in this stuff, Simon Stevens the boss of NHS England told a Parliamentary Committee that the next step for an ACS would be become an ACO (yes, I'm sorry!) or an Accountable Care Organisation, which effectively would replace a partnership with a single business entity (based on the insurance based health systems in the United States).
However, that's in the future.
Of more immediate interest (or concern, depending on your point of view) is that all the new ACSs "must assertively moderate growth, achieve quality targets and deliver a single financial control system by April 2018".
Perhaps they will tell us sooner or later how they intend to "assertively moderate growth" in the year ahead - will this mean longer waiting lists? - because they certainly haven't told Reading Borough Council.